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The recent sinking of a commercial barge near Picton, Ontario, in Prince Edward County, has resulted in a spotlight on the activities by wind power developer Algonquin Power, and its controversial Windlectric project on Amherst Island.

The project will virtually subsume the little island, which is home to 34 at-risk or endangered species of wildlife, and change life for its residents dramatically. However, that wasn’t enough to sway the Environmental Review Tribunal, which dismissed a citizen group appeal. The project is still before the courts, with a new phase beginning in Toronto this week, before Divisional Court.

One of the requirements in a power developer’s Renewable Energy Approval or REA is a marine logistics plan, which documents how marine safety will be managed as construction proceeds, and equipment and material such as gravel are transported over water.

Windlectric had no Marine Logistics Plan in place.

Until the day after the barge sank.

The barge was to transport gravel from Prince Edward County across the water to the Windlectric site but encountered ice which “sandpapered” a two-foot by two-foot hole in the hull, and partially sank.

Windlectric hastily issued a Marine Logistics Plan which, interestingly, made no mention whatsoever of the use of Picton Bay, and how the barge traffic was going to work with the Glenora Ferry trips every 15 minutes. Picton elected officials also expressed surprise at the use of the Picton Terminal: they had no idea that Algonquin Power was getting gravel from Prince Edward County, and there had been no agreements for road use.

Use of the Picton facility has now been halted, and Prince Edward County remains under a Boil Water advisory due to the spill of diesel fuel, although the state of emergency has been revised from earlier this week.

This weekend, the power developer issued a statement saying the barge sinking was “unfortunate” but “outside the project’s boundary at the time of the event.” So, not our concern.

Algonquin Power is also seeking the use of a stretch of parkland near Millhaven and Bath to use as a construction staging area; the company claims it will return the parkland to its original state after it is finished.

Barge carrying construction equipment and material: no plan in place at the time of accident [Photo Jay Pickerel/Facebook]

The fact remains that the construction of wind “farms” is actually construction of huge power plants, no matter what bucolic photos of benign “windmills” are used.

Questions should be raised about the environmental impact of these construction activities not only of the developers but also the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, which citizens have a right to expect is overseeing events and confirming that mandated conditions for environmental protection and safety are being met.

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